Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Thursday Threads: Cold Ambition by Rachel Sharpe

Title: Cold Ambition (Jordan James, PI series)
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Heat Level: Sweet


"It was my life-long dream to become a private eye. Little did I know that with my very first
case, that dream would become a life-threatening nightmare..."

When Jordan James decided to embark on a career as a private investigator, she never could have imagined that a chance encounter would lead to her staring down the barrel of a gun on the roof’s edge of a high-rise building. As she begins to investigate her first case, the puzzling murder of a prominent businessman that has left Boston’s finest mystified for more than two decades, she finds herself suddenly immersed in a treacherous underworld brimming with betrayal, raw greed, and political subterfuge of international proportions. In the midst of this, she discovers she is falling for her mysterious client despite the hints of his dark past. Can this feisty Southern girl with a penchant for trouble solve this baffling case or is she doomed to become another tragic chapter in an international conspiracy?


We sat there in silence and heard Ace stumble towards the door and fumble with the lock.
“Is Jordan James here?” a muffled voice inquired. I strained to hear, but the distance between the rooms and the closed door made it nearly impossible.
“Who?” Ace laughed. Suddenly, there was a strange sound. It sounded like a firecracker had gone off. This sound was followed by a loud thud which echoed through the apartment. In an instant, Rick and I were on our feet. Rick turned off the light and grabbed the tape from the VCR. I searched the room vainly for a place to hide. Outside the room, I heard shoes echoing on the floor and the sound of doors being opened. Before I had another moment to think, Rick grabbed me and practically carried me to the far corner of the room by the soundboard. Next to the soundboard was a thin wall covered in soundproof foam. Three of the walls had this soundproof foam but the wall contiguous with the door did not. It appeared Ace was still installing it. He pulled it back to reveal a small closet- sized room.
He brought me inside and replaced the wall, closing us in. We huddled together in the corner. Looking around I realized that this was the room in which Ace occasionally recorded. Suddenly, faintly, I heard the door to the media room open. I heard footsteps making their way around the room. After what seemed like an eternity, the intruder spoke.
“She’s not here,” the muffled voice stated. “Yes, she came into the building with Michaels’ kid. No, they can’t be far. Don’t worry. We know where their car is parked.
If not before, we’ll get them when they go back for it.”


Monday, June 23, 2014

For the Love of Bathrooms

Silence spread across the room, thick and sour.
               "So where’s the bathroom in this place?” Josh asked, looking around the dull metal room. “I know we’re supposed to pray and all, but I really have to pee.”(Hill, The Tithe)

My first sci-fi romance novel, The Tithe, comes out in early August. Yay, me! I always pen paranormal romances, although early in my writing career, I seriously contemplated writing high fantasy, especially since I enjoy reading it so much. I’m also a history buff, albeit mostly 20th-century American history.

In spite of all this, I will likely never publish any flavor of historical romance, in large part because most of human history happened sans bathrooms.

I like bathrooms. To me, those small rooms with their plumbed water and bath towel racks
The bathroom in my new house looks just like this --
at 1/6 the scale. And without the fancy bits.
signal the height of human civilization. Now, I don’t say this just because experts consider safe water and sanitation two of the main reasons why Americans’ life expectancies leapt from 47 in 1900 to 79 in 2014 -- although woohoo!* No, I simply crave comfort any time I engage in excretory – or, well, any -- behavior.

Historically, humans have not experienced perfect safety, comfort, and cleanliness while eliminating. Sure, the Romans and others had indoor plumbing, but most of the history of human waste involves “technologies” like holes in the ground, outhouses, chamber pots, and buckets. Shudder. I am grateful on a daily basis we’ve moved from crude wooden slats over gaping holes to aggressively white, porcelain chairs with shiny, metal handles.

I could always ignore the eliminatory habits of my literary characters, but I revel in those shots of realism. How can I get my readers to relate to characters who don’t eat, belch, and run to the bathroom first thing in the morning? To do otherwise feels like inserting a Barbie™, with her smooth, uniformly beige, featureless body, into the story in lieu of a sneezing, snacking, peeing, and thoroughly embodied character.

Public bathrooms: An untapped source of dramatic tension.
In The Tithe, a lot of the whispers, plotting, and even a murder attempt happen in the women’s bathroom. In the excerpt above, my novel’s shero, Josh, evokes the bathroom as a symbol of embodiment to not-so-subtly poke at the dogmatic religious beliefs of her sister and brother Tithes. Toward the end of the book, someone literally shoves Josh’s face in the toilet. It’s not a coincidence.

There’s something to be said about writing about simpler times. Only, as we all know, those times weren’t really simpler; all the human dynamics remained. The only “simplicity” involved was the technology and I, for one, approve of humanity’s technological progress. So, hey, count me out, historical romance writers, and kudos to you for writing about those times before we had air conditioning, indoor plumbing, and, of course, glass window panes through which we could witness the bounty of nature. From a safe, safe distance.

* My apologies for being so American-centric, but as I mentioned, I focus on American history. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Tithe Cover Reveal

Your agonizing, nail-biting wait has ended, my friends. Only a short year after I finished my last novel, The Tithe, the peeps over at Soul Mate Publishing have slapped together one heck of a gorgeous cover. I am perfectly thrilled with it. It captures the bleakness of the Mojave Desert; the alienness and familiarity of this universe's future California; and the austere, twisted beauty of Joshua trees, the namesake of our shero. Plus, it's just super purty, amiright?

Without further ado, here is the cover. 

Pretty sleek and sci-fi, right? (Or, if I were an advertiser, I'd write "Pretty. Sleek. Sci-Fi.") I am sad to report, however, that the novel itself, in all its dark, lengthy glory, won't be available till early August. But that gives you plenty of time to save up in order to buy copies for yourself, your sister, your significant other, your cat sitter, your neighbor, your Cousin Sherman, and maybe even your boss.

In case you forgot --  although how could you? -- here's the book's blurb. 

“Every seven years, seven persons from each of the ten towns must go into the desert, where they will enter into the realm of Elovah, their God.”
No one knows exactly what happens to these seventy Tithes, but everyone knows who:  the “unworkables,” those with different physical and mental capacities. Joshua Barstow, raised for twenty years among her town’s holy women, is one of these seventy Tithes. She is joined by the effervescent Lynna, the scholarly Avery, and the amoral Blue, a man who has spent most of his life in total solitude.
Each night, an angel swoops down to take one of their numbers. Each night, that is, except the first, when the angel touches Josh… and leaves her. What is so special about Josh? She doesn’t feel special; she feels like a woman trying to survive while learning what it means to know friendship, joy… and maybe even love.
How funny that she had to sacrificed to find reasons to live.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Happy International Elle's Big Four-Oh!

Next Wednesday, June 11, is my 40th birthday.

You’ve probably heard something about this, since it’s, well, kind of a national holiday. It’s almost universal, but I’m having a few problems getting Slovenia and Yemen onboard. I’ll keep you updated. But anyway, it’s both a milestone in my life (the big Four-Oh!) and, you know, my birthday.

I’ve been bouncing around my world lately, generously reminding everyone of the forthcoming holiday. Because politics are so important to me – not to mention forty is the ruby anniversary (just sayin’) -- I make sure I never, ever forget to mention which birthday it is.

I. Am. Turning. Forty.

People react to my proclamation about the way I expected. Most raise their eyebrows, say, “Oh!” uncomfortably, and/or add, “I never would have guessed! I would have thought early thirties, tops.” Yeah, I know. Fat does that. I even wrote a poem and an anthology piece about the ageism implied in the cliché “fat doesn’t crack.”

I know these folks mean well. In spite of the enthusiasm in my voice, they think I’m doing
Rubies celebrate 40th anniversaries *and* red is my power color?
You don't say.
the usual bemoaning of a birthday and the tragic addition of another year to my bio clock. They’re being kind and trying to soothe my imaginary angst. But they’re wrong; I’m not sad. I’m celebrating. I have a beautiful life and a new home that, in spite of taking weeks to paint (Primer? Third coats? Edgers? Gah!), is pretty sexy. Baby, forty looks stunning on me.

Yes, we live in an ageist culture. Yes, ageism disproportionately affects women.* Yes, I sometimes fear what it will mean when my brown hair turns gray, my fat stops filling those cracks, and youth (or seeming youth) is no longer an item I place in my privilege category. But instead of tumbling down that slope, thereby reproducing this cultural inequality, I’m instead very intentionally, and quite accurately, regarding this as a brilliant achievement. Forty is a victory!

Minus the bizarre flash of nipple,
I think someone in my life should
make this size- and age-positive
cake happen!
So I’ve decided to treat my age the same way I do with my fat: make everyone acknowledge it and witness my peace (or at least my relative comfort) with it. When people rush to reassure me “Gosh, you don’t look a second over 33.6 years old!” it is my pleasure to respond, “Oh, I love turning forty! I’m trying to convene the U.N. and get it declared an international celebration.” Sometimes I even say something like, “I’m sure this is going to be the best decade so far!” or “I can’t wait to see what my 40s will bring!” Usually, my conversational partners end up smiling – whether sincerely or not I neither know nor particularly care – and responding with something more encouraging and age-positive. Some smile nervously and walk away. Both are totally acceptable responses to me.

I know I’m not changing the world by turning forty, although I possibly could if those darn two countries would get onboard. I also know that, at age 39.9, I don’t really know the full sting of ageism. I don’t know what my future brings, but I hope it’s a heaping helping of body and age acceptance. In the meantime, I can only hope my defiantly pro-forty stance helps a few people rethink their automatic linking of aging with trauma, loss, and decline.

Here’s to fabulously forty!

* Examples: Older women make less money relative to their male peers than do younger women (source). Fewer older women than older men appear in media. Women over fifty have some of the highest rates of unemployment and are often the first fired during financial difficulties. Older women are much likelier to be poor than older men. The condemnation of “looking old” affects older women far more than men. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Thursday Threads: Confederado do Norte by Linda Pennell

Confederado do Norte
by Linda Bennett Pennell

Genre:  Women’s Historical Fiction
Due for Release: July 2014

Other BooksAl Capone at the Blanche Hotel now available from Soul Mate Publishing
Twitter:  @LindaPennell

Back Cover Description for Confederado do Norte:

October, 1866.
Mary Catherine is devastated when her family emigrates from Georgia to Brazil because her father and maternal uncle refuse to accept the terms of Reconstruction following the Confederacy’s defeat. Shortly after arrival in their new country, she is orphaned, leaving her in Uncle Nathan’s care. He hates Mary Catherine, blaming her for his sister’s death. She despises him because she believes Nathan murdered her father. When Mary Catherine discovers Nathan’s plan to be rid of her as well, she flees into the wilderness filled with jaguars and equally dangerous men. Finding refuge among kind peasants, she grows into a beauty, ultimately marrying the scion of a wealthy Portuguese family. Happiness and security seem assured until civil unrest brings armed marauders who have an inexplicable connection to Mary Catherine. Recreating herself has protected Mary Catherine in the past, but the latest crisis will demand all of the courage, intelligence, and creativity she possesses simply to survive.   

Excerpt from Confederado do Norte

Chapter 1

I dreamt the dream again last night. In the small hours, I awoke in a tumble of bedclothes and bathed in perspiration despite the howling snowstorm blanketing the city. I rearranged quilts and plumped pillows, but sleep remained elusive. My mind refused to be quiet.
As often happens after such a night, I felt unable to rise at my usual hour and remained abed long after the maids cleared breakfast from the morning room. My daughter-in-law, bless her heart, meant well. I told her it was ridiculous to bring the doctor out on such a frigid day, but apparently the very old, like the very young, are not to be trusted in matters of judgment. After the doctor listened to my chest, a studied sympathy filled his eyes and he gently suggested that perhaps I should get my affairs in order. No doubt he wondered at my smile for he couldn’t have known I have no affairs other than my memories and the emotions they engender.
Unlike most elderly persons, I don’t revel in slogging through the past. It isn’t wrapped in pretty ribbons or surrounded by a golden aura. Instead, its voices haunt my dreams, demanding and accusatory. Until recently, I’ve resisted their intrusion into my waking life, but I now believe the past can no longer remain buried in nocturnal visions. It must be brought out into the light of day. From its earliest moments onward, the past’s substance must be gouged out, pulled apart, and examined bit by bit until its truth is exposed. While total objectivity may not be possible, I have concluded that committing the past to paper is my best hope for sorting facts from imaginings. Perhaps then I will achieve the peace that has so long hidden its face from me.
You see, when I was quite young—only a girl really—I killed four people. Two were dearly beloved, one was a hated enemy, and the last was a dangerous criminal.